Miami Heat fans welcome the three kings
With the Miami Heat set to embark on its 30th season beginning Wednesday in Orlando, now is as good a time as any to look back and recognize some of the people who have impacted the organization most — from players to the front office.
And we ranked 30 of them in honor of the 30th season.
1. Pat Riley: The architect of the Heat’s three championships as team president and the franchise’s all-time leader in wins as a coach. Only the Spurs and Lakers have won more than Miami (1,006-750) since Riley’s arrival in 1995. There are only six professional teams out of 122 in the four major North American sports leagues that can boast being to 17 postseasons and having won at least three championships since Riley arrived in Miami and the Heat are one of them.
2. Dwyane Wade: He broke Heat fans hearts when he left for Chicago last summer after 13 seasons in Miami, but he’s still the most impactful player in Heat history. Three rings, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and a future Hall of Famer. Hard to argue with that resume.
3. LeBron James: His four seasons in Miami culminated with four trips to the Finals, two titles, two league MVPs and countless memories for Heat fans, who were heartbroken when he announced he was headed back to Cleveland on July 11, 2014. Once he retires it might be easier for Heat fans to forgive and embrace him again.
4. Alonzo Mourning: He was the first big whale Riley was able to reel in and the reason others soon followed. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year and Hall of Famer, Mourning, now a member of the Heat’s front office, set the tone for this franchise’s reputation for hard-nosed defense. Without him, even in a backup role, there is no guarantee the Heat wins its first title in 2006.
5. The Arison Family: They started it all in 1987 when Ted Arison was awarded an NBA franchise. Micky Arison took over in 1995 and immediately took the Heat to new heights after trading a first-round pick to the Knicks for Riley. Micky’s son Nick is a key part of the Heat’s front office. In 2016, Forbes estimated the Heat’s value at $1.3 billion, 10th highest in the NBA.
6. Shaquille O’Neal: The Hall-of-Fame center played only 3 1/2 seasons in Miami, but he helped bring the franchise its first championship alongside Wade in 2006. Although he was on the decline by the end of his tenure in Miami, O’Neal remains arguably the biggest acquisition in franchise history by Riley, who traded a number of young pieces to the Lakers to acquire him. Last December, the Heat retired Shaq’s number, and Riley and O’Neal buried any bad blood in the process.
7. Erik Spoelstra: He has been with the organization since 1997 and in a lot of ways is considered the future once Riley retires. Since becoming Riley’s handpicked succesor in 2008, Spoelstra has led the Heat to four Finals trips and two titles while compiling a career 440-282 record. He’s 14 wins shy of matching Riley for the most wins in Heat history by a coach. The Heat’s 30-11 second-half finish last season might have finally silenced some critics who believe his success was solely based on the Big 3 era and not his coaching.
8. Udonis Haslem: The franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds doesn’t play nearly as often as he used to, but as a 15-year veteran and team captain he has become the voice of the current Heat team following the departure of Wade. His three championship rings, gritty work ethic and leadership command respect from everyone in the organization. He’s probably the most beloved player in Heat history now after Wade teamed up with LeBron in Cleveland last month.
9. Chris Bosh: The 11-time All-Star had his career in Miami cut short by blood clots, and the separation wasn’t pretty. But while he was here Bosh was instrumental in Miami’s Big 3 era success, sacrificing his personal numbers for the good of the team. He remains one of the best players in franchise history, (he ranks fifth all-time in scoring, sixth in rebounding and win shares) having been selected to the All-Star team in all six seasons he played in Miami.
10. Tim Hardaway: His No. 10 hangs from the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena, one of just three Heat jerseys numbers retired. An All-NBA first-team selection who finished fourth in the MVP voting when he led the Heat to 61 wins in 1997, Hardaway ranks eighth on Miami's all-time scoring list, second in assists and first in three-pointers made.
11. Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham: Before the Arison family and Riley took control, the Heat was run by these two minority owners for the first seven seasons of existence. Schaffel served as general manager. Cunningham, an NBA Hall of Famer, provided his expertise as well. Not all the decisions paid off. But there were some smart ones like drafting Glen Rice, Ron Seikaly, Grant Long and Steve Smith, who are on this list and led the Heat to two playoff appearances and to the postseason faster than any other expansion team.
12. Andy Elisburg: Riley’s right-hand man since he took over in 1995, Elisburg has been the numbers-cruncher behind the scenes who finds ways to make all of Heat’s maneuvers fit under the salary cap. He made the Big 3 coming together work financially in 2010, and he has been at the forefront of the Heat’s moves as general manager for the past five years.
13. Glen Rice: The franchise’s first real star when he won the NBA’s three-point shooting contest in 1995, Rice ranks third all time in Heat history in scoring and three-pointers made and fourth in minutes played and steals. Riley traded Rice to Charlotte in a package deal for Mourning. Rice scored 56 points — which was the franchise record before LeBron James took it from him — in a nationally televiesed game over O’Neal and the Magic in 1995.
14. Eddie Jones: A three-time All-Star before Riley acquired him and Anthony Mason in a trade with Charlotte in 2000, Jones spent five seasons in Miami and was the leading scorer on most of those teams while Alonzo Mourning dealt with his kidney ailment. A steady, veteran leader, Jones was traded to Memphis for two big pieces of Miami’s first championship run in Jason Williams and James Posey in 2006. Jones ranks second all time in Heat history to Hardaway in three-pointers made, fifth in win shares, seventh in steals and assists and eighth in points per game.
15. Ray Allen: He only played two seasons with the Heat, but nailed the biggest shot in franchise history when he backpedaled in the waning moments of Game 6 of the 2013 Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and drilled a game-tying three-pointer. The Heat would win in overtime and capture its third NBA title a couple days later. A 10-time All-Star, Allen will likely soon be headed to the Hall of Fame.
16. Hassan Whiteside: He has only been around for 2 1/2 seasons, but Whiteside became the first Heat player to win a league rebounding title last season after leading the league in blocks the year prior. Riley signed him to a four-year, $98 million deal in the summer of 2016 and he’s the anchor of the franchise moving forward.
17. Mario Chalmers: He played seven-plus seasons in Miami and the fourth-most games in Heat history behind Wade, Haslem and Mourning. An integral part of the franchise’s last two NBA titles, Rio never averaged more than 10.2 points per game for the Heat, but he had his share of big moments in the playoffs, including a team-high 19 points in a Game 2 win versus San Antonio in the 2013 Finals. Before you question why Chalmers is listed so high, know he’s ranked 10th all time in Heat history in win shares (28.0).
18. Brian Grant: A grinder for Riley in the early 2000s, he joined the Heat with Eddie Jones the same summer Mourning was lost to a kidney ailment. On the Heat’s 2004 playoff team, Grant started at center and took on many tough defensive roles on a team that rallied from a 0-7 start, finished 42-40 and won a playoff series in Wade’s rookie season. Grant eventually became part of the trade which netted the Heat O’Neal from the Lakers and delivered Miami’s its first title.
19. Rony Seikaly: The first draft pick in Heat history, Seikaly spent six seasons in Miami and helped the team reach the playoffs twice, averaging 15.4 points, 10.4 rebonds and 1.4 blocks in 439 career games. He still ranks third all time in franchise history in rebounds (4,544) and free throws (1,766) and fourth in blocks per game. In 1990, he became the first of two Heat players (Isaac Austin is the other) to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
20. Gary Payton: Like Ray Allen, Payton, a Hall of Famer, only played two seasons with the Heat, but was instrumental in Miami’s first title run in 2006. He hit a number of big shots in the playoffs, including Game 5 of the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks when he scored eight points and the final field goal with 29 seconds left to clinch a three-point win. The title was the only one Payton won during his brilliant 18-year career.
21. Shane Battier: Now a member of the Heat’s front office as director of basketball development and analytics, Battier was a key member of the Heat’s last two championship teams and the last three teams to reach the Finals. In the 2012 Finals against Oklahoma City he averaged 11.6 points and finished 15 of 26 from three-point range. A year later, he scored 18 points by hitting six three-pointers in a Game 7 win over the Spurs.
22. Goran Dragic: Before Bosh’s battle with blood clots began in Feb. 2015, Riley sent two first-round picks and a few players to Phoenix in a three-team trade which netted the league’s 2014 Most Improved Player and Third Team All-NBA selection. Last season, Dragic put up numbers similar to the ones he did in 2014 with the Suns and at age 31 appears poised to lead the Heat back into the playoffs after last year’s 30-11 second-half finish. In his 2 1/2 seasons with Miami, Dragic’s averages in scoring (17.2), assists (5.7), minutes played (33.5) and player efficiency (17.9) rank top eight in franchise history.
23. Caron Butler: Arguably the second-best draft pick Riley has had for the Heat behind Wade, Butler was an All-NBA Rookie First Team selection in 2003 and a key cog in the Heat’s playoff run to the second round in 2004. More importantly, he, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom became enough to entice the Lakers to trade Shaq to the Heat, eventually bringing Miami its first NBA title. Butler went on to play 14 seasons in the league and was a two-time All-Star with the Wizards.
24. Lamar Odom: It’s hard to measure the impact of a player who only spent one season in a Heat uniform, but Odom had one. He averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds a game on a 2004 Heat team that rallied to make the playoffs, won a series and set the path for future success. His trade to the Lakers along with Butler and Grant brought in Shaq and the rest for the Heat was history.
25. Chet Kammerer: After joining the Heat in 1996, Kammerer has been Riley’s eyes and ears when it comes to scouting talent in college and overseas. Among the many talents Kammerer has unearthed: Haslem, Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. Even in his mid-70s, Kammerer shows no signs of slowing down.
26. P.J. Brown: A two-time All-Defensive Second Team selection with the Heat, Brown was Mourning’s running man in the paint during the team’s playoff run from 1997 to 2000. A Kennedy Citizenship Award recipient, Brown will forever be known for his famous takedown of Knicks guard Charlie Ward in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He still ranks seventh all time in Heat history in rebounds per game (7.9), eighth in blocks (1.1) and 11th in career win shares for Miami.
27. Grant Long: A member of the Heat’s first six teams, Long was Miami’s second-round pick in the 1988 draft and a player who became known for his rebounding and defense. He made the playoffs twice and still ranks third in steals (666), fifth in rebounds (3,281) and ninth all time in Heat history in win shares (31.6). Only Wade, Haslem, Mourning and Rice have played more minutes in a Heat uniform than Long.
28. Steve Smith: The fifth overall pick in the 1991 draft by the Heat, Smith only spent three seasons in Miami, but made the playoffs twice, including in 1994 when he led the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game. Ultimately, Smith’s trade to Atlanta along with Grant Long for Kevin Willis led Miami into a tailspin that eventually led to Riley taking charge the following summer.
29. Keith Askins: On the court he was nothing more than a steady backup for the Heat for nine seasons, playing in the fifth-most games in franchise history (486) while averaging 3.8 points and 16.4 minutes on six playoff teams. But since his retirement in 1999, Askins has remained on staff as an assistant and has been the team’s director of pro and college scouting since Sept. 2013.
30. Michael Beasley: The highest draft pick in Heat history (second overall in 2008) never panned out on the court the way Miami had hoped, but his trade to Minnesota in July 2010 cleared the cap space necessary for the Big 3 to come together. He has had two other stints with the Heat since and ranks 17th on the all-time scoring list (2,927 points) between Dragic (2,933) and Whiteside (2,913).